Music students win statewide singing competition

Music students win statewide singing competition

By: Nina Fox

Rhianna Cockrell and Ben Ganger practice their award-winning pieces on the Sauder stage. Photo by Isaac Fast

Goshen College sent eight talented vocalists to compete at the annual NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) competition at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. on November 1. Two of Goshen’s students, Rhianna Cockrell and Ben Ganger, both music performance majors with concentrations in voice, returned from the competition with top honors, each winning first place in their divisions.

The NATS competition is an annual event that draws students from colleges and universities across the state, including the University of Indianapolis, Ball State University, Indiana University Bloomington, Butler University and others. Each student competed in divisions separated according to age and year, with various subgroups within each division.

Cockrell competed against 12 other female students, while Ganger competed in a division of eight. Competitors were required to prepare three pieces for the competition: a twentieth-century English language art song, a foreign language art song and an aria. For Cockrell and Ganger, taking first place was an honor, a testament to their talent and effort and an encouraging step in their budding musical careers.

Cockrell, third-year mezzo soprano, studies under the instruction of Dr. Scott Hochstetler, associate professor of music. Cockrell’s three-piece repertoire for the competition included Jupiter has Seven Moons, an English art song by Leonard Bernstein, Breit über mein Haupt, a German art song by Richard Strauss and Nobles Seigneurs Salut! a French aria by Jiacomo Meyerbeer.

Said Cockrell, “Jupiter is very rhythmic, very quick. It shows off the ability to count and feel rhythm.”

The German art song is more languid and musical, revealing vocal, tonal, and technical purity. The French aria, on the other hand, “has a lot of coloratura,” said Cockrell, “it’s very flashy.” For her, the experience and feedback were very valuable:

“This is a really good way to have complete strangers—experienced strangers—give feedback. That definitely had an effect on the things I’m doing with my voice technically, and dramatically as well—what I’m doing with my character,” she said.

Ganger, second-year baritone who also studies under Hochstetler, also received first place in his division. Ganger’s vocal selections include Song of Black Max, an English language art song by William Bolcom, None but the Lonely Heart, a Russian art song by Tchaikovsky, and Ach, wir armen Leute! an aria by Englebert Humperdinck. Ganger described Song of Black Max as “a creepy cabaret song” and enjoyed dramatizing the piece. He also enjoyed performing Tchaivosky in Russian, and he chose Ach, wir armen Leute! to highlight his operatic tone. For Ganger, the feedback was also an important part of the competition.

Said Ganger, “It’s nice to get fresh opinions from people who don’t know you and haven’t heard your voice before. I think that’s the most valuable thing I got out of this competition.”

Cockrell, Ganger and other students and lovers of music will continue to sing in Goshen College choirs/recitals/events, and also in more casual settings, practicing their operatic tone in stairwells, and blasting the radio in the shower – bringing music to campus, the community and the world.

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